China's growing appetite for Nebraska beef, pork, popcorn benefits farmers

Daryl Hunnicutt and Norm Krug of Preferred Popcorn look at the new Chinese packages of the popcorn they grow. (NTV News)

A snack Americans love and Nebraska farmers grow is headed in greater volume to China.

Farmer Daryl Hunnicutt, an owner of Preferred Popcorn, recently had a chance to see that first hand.

He said, “As the middle class grows they look for American-type snack items, and trying to get our products sold into their market is a great opportunity for us.”

It didn’t hurt that Hunnicutt and others from the Chapman-based popcorn company were traveling overseas with Gov. Pete Ricketts.

“That means something to them and it is important and helps you do business over there,” Hunnicutt said.

The trade mission comes as China prepares to lift a 12-year ban on U.S. beef. And while laying the groundwork for that, Nebraska signed nine agreements, including one sending millions of pounds of bulk popcorn overseas.

They also toured a plant that will pop and package it, that was built with input from Preferred Popcorn.

Norm Krug, CEO of Preferred Popcorn said, “We were able to visit a plant that's high in food safety and the Chinese are very concerned about that."

And Nebraska is also sharing its know-how, with plans to build a model farm that could bring business for ag equipment makers.

Hunnicutt said, “There would be some Nebraska equipment like pivots or grain bins on that farm.”

And deeper than dollars, these farmers say it's about relationships, which is something the Chinese value.

“If they can know where the product originated on the farm, that is more beneficial. Because they do like American products, but to know it came from a specific farmer, to know the farmer is beneficial,” Hunnicutt said.

Krug said, “It’s really great to see one more opportunity to have influence on others by trading together.”

So Chinese consumers who pick up a bag labeled "happy pop," are eating a snack grown by happy farmers like these.

Hunnicutt said, “To promote both Nebraska, our local communities, our farmers, is a great thing.”

Hong Kong already purchases Nebraska beef and other products, to the tune of $234 million a year. The state hopes lifting the beef ban will allow more exports to the rest of China.

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